Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gear Review: Ribz Front Pack - for all the right reasons

The first time I saw the Ribz Front Pack in action I was halfway through a 12-mile out-and-back hike to the summit of Mount San Jacinto. At nearly 11,000 feet above the desert floor, I thought I must be hallucinating (the altitude does that to me sometimes). Seeing a guy with a pack strapped to his ribs instead of on his back struck me as odd - like those funky five-toed shoes that started popping up at the gym a few years ago. Upon cursory inspection, I was ready to write it off as some novel and unnecessary fad. But the more I looked into it, I realized there were some pretty good reasons to try it out (The Ribz Front Pack, I mean - I'm still not ready to try out those shoes!).

Ribz Front Pack in action on the Wissahickon Gorge Orange Trail
I'm kind of analytical, so before I strapped one on I did some research online. I found there were three primary reasons to try the Ribz Front Pack:
  1. To redistribute weight from my back to my core in order to increase balance and reduce impact on my lower back and spine
  2. For quick and easy access to the things I use most often while hiking - maps, hand towel, snacks, camera, binoculars, etc.
  3. For extra space on longer hikes, overnights or weekend trips - when a day pack isn't quite big enough but there isn't enough to fill a 60+ liter pack 
Ribz Front Pack as it came in the mail - just one pound and very compact
When I got my Ribz Front Pack in the mail, I was impressed with how small it was; the shipping weight was just one pound, and it came rolled up in a Cordura Fabric pouch - the same durable material the pack is made of. As I began to pack it in preparation for my hike, though, I was even more impressed by how big it actually is. With two deep main pouches and two smaller but roomy outer pockets, it easily fit everything I needed for my day hike and even had enough room so I could carry extra snacks for my friends. 

Putting it on was at first a bit challenging. It seemed to be just a bunch of straps connected in the back. But I read the instructions and found that by unzipping the two pouches I could slide it on in a way similar to a regular backpack and then zip it back up in front. Once I had it on, I could easily adjust the straps to fit.

A word on sizing: I was concerned that it might not fit me because I am 6'1" and weigh 280 pounds. I got the regular and it fit me perfectly. There wasn't much room for give, though, so if you're much bigger than me or have more than a 44" waist, the regular probably won't work, and that's the biggest size they have. Also, I saw the pack for sale on Amazon with small and small/medium for sizing, so if I were you I would go straight to the Ribz Front Pack manufacturer to check on your correct size before buying.

After a more perfunctory inspection, I can definitely say I love my Ribz Front Pack. On short day hikes - five to 10 miles - I will probably still stick with my backpack, since it's got a bladder where I can store my water and enough room for snacks and such. But for longer hikes, overnights, weekend trips and even backpacking expeditions I will definitely use my Ribz Front Pack in conjunction with a day or overnight pack, especially for reason number two - quick and easy access to all my hiking essentials.

Brian Schwarz is an award-winning journalist whose career was derailed by super obesity. He fought his way back to health - losing 165 pounds in the process of his "fit-life journey". A professional communicator by trade and activator by nature, Brian's personal mission is to inspire others live their fullest lives. Follow Brian on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Ribz Front Pack for free from RibzWear as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations.